Monday, February 27, 2006

Meanie


Meanie
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Last Thursday night, I met my friend Erika downtown for dinner. I was lucky to get what my friend Amy has coined as "TV Parking." (TV parking is getting a space just like people do on TV. They never have to drive around the block. They just pull up to wherever they are going and miraculously, there is an open spot.) Well, I pulled up to the Uptown Cafe and there were two parallel parking type spots open right in front of the place. The two spots were part of what I estimate as three and a half to four total spots. Four small to midsize cars might fit, three SUVs or station wagons, maximum. The first two spots were taken by medium size cars. If I pulled reasonably close to the the second car, there would be room behind me for an additional car. I did just that, being careful not to make it difficult for the car in front of me to get out. In my (considerate) desire to make space for another car behind me, I apparently ignored the parking lines and was parked right over one, so you could say I was taking up two spaces. I wasn't taking up two spaces. I was actually making room for another car.

Alas, that isn't the way it was seen by author of the eloquent note pictured here. When I went to get into my car after dinner, this lovely napkin was tucked under my windshield wiper. At that point, I was the only car parked in the spaces and it was then I realized that my car could be perceived as carelessly taking up two parking spaces.

Before I get into a critique of the content of this note, let's look at how the writer’s reaction is typical of so many that friends and strangers have to one another every day. One person does something with the best of intentions only for another person to interpret what was done as being malevolent or thoughtless. It makes for a whole lot of misunderstandings leading to fights/break-ups...etc. on an individual level and wars on a group level. What would it be like if we assumed that people acted with good will until firmly proved otherwise? Something to think about.

Now, let's briefly discuss the content of the note. First of all, it is clear that the author is a bit irritated with me. The use of the word "fucking" clearly indicates that. So, my question is why the weak-ass finish? "Ass" in my opinion is a rather innocuous insult, much tamer than its more-to-the-point close cousin “ass-hole”. If one is going to use a variation of “fuck” in one’s rant, “ass” seems like an anticlimax if you ask me. I would have finished the note with much stronger name calling. Indeed, “ass” made it sort of humorous to me. The message would have had a much stronger impact on me had the writer really let it rip at the end.

One of the few times I feel the urge to leave a note on someone’s car is when I see this huge Hummer that is driven around town by tiny little blonde mom. ( I often see it in a grocery store parking lot.) This gas-guzzling vehicle has a “Kids First” license plate and a “Support our Troops” yellow ribbon decal on it. I always want to write a note asking this, “How is it that you are putting kids first and supporting our troops by driving this absolutely unnecessary gas guzzling car? Are you going to send your “kids first” to the draft office so that they can support our troops in the war for oil to fuel these SUVs?” I don’t of course put the note on the car. I always want to, though.

I was going to link this entry to another I have wanted to write about Brokeback Mountain, but I am too tired to do it and Chris wants to watch a movie. Perhaps tomorrow I will opine on the movie. It won’t be what you think.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Winning Recipe

Fleur de Sel Caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 T unsalted butter
1.5 tsp fleur de sel
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Line an 8 by 8 baking pan with a piece of lightly oiled parchment, making sure the parchment hangs over all four sides so you can just pull the whole slab out of the pan after cooling.
Combine cream, butter and fleur de sel in small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat & set aside.

Combine corn syrup, water and sugar in a large heavy saucepan, preferably a tall one. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Boil and swirl pan from time to time until the syrup is a golden caramel color. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Depth of color/flavor is up to you here but don't go too dark. Lower heat to moderate and carefully pour cream mixture in. It will bubble up. Simmer mixture, stirring gently & frequently until it reaches (on a candy or deep fry thermometer) 246 degrees (for soft chewy caramels) or 248 degrees (I haven't tried that temp yet, I assume they will be firmer.)

Pour bubbling caramel (be careful) into prepared pan. Let cool for 2-3 hours. Cut into squares and wrap in squares of wax paper, candy style. Give to friends. Enjoy the compliments.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Saturday Night


Photo 219
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Chris and I are getting ready to go out tonight and the babysitter is about to arrive. Jack and I were taking some pictures and I thought I would share this one with you. I think my kid is so handsome. But, having said that, I realize that no parent would ever know if they had a homely kid. (except maybe my mom). I once said that to my father in law and he confidently declared that no kid of his was homely but if one was, he would know it. And then I said, Well, Chuck, one of your kids IS homely. He paused a moment and we all cracked up. (For the record, not one of the McGary kids is homely.)

Today Jack had a birthday party at the Y. It was perfect because I could drop him off and go swimming. The birthday boy was peanut allergic so it was a safe place for Jack, so I didn't have to worry. I swam a mile and a quarter and boy did I feel mighty. Then, I came home and ate about six of my delicious caramels for good measure. I have to get them out of this house.

We are going to one of our favorite restaurants in town - Samira. It is an Afghani place and the food is always superb. After, we are going to see "Boston Marriage", a play by David Mamet at the Waldron Arts Center. This town has such great stuff.

Gotta go paint the town. More later.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Caramelholic



Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
My name is Joni and I am a caramelholic. I am now obsessed with finding the perfect caramel recipe. This would be fine except I cannot stop eating them. I am going to make one more batch to mail to those who have requested them and then, I must stop. Otherwise, I will be getting requests from the circus to be their fat lady.

Last night we had a tornado warning...in FEBRUARY!!!??? The winds were impressive and kept me up most of the night, rattling the windows. I am tired as a result, so I am off to watch a movie (The Aristocrats) with my valentine and go to bed with my new favorite book. Who knew that War and Peace was such a page turner? (I should have known, having read it about ten years ago...but this time it is even better.)
Bye for now from the soon to be fat lady. I guess I should learn how to sing...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

BloomingtonGirl Gets On Her Soapbox



Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Most people reading this know that I am no fan (to say the least) of this man or his commander in chief. However, I think WAY too much is being made about the hunting accident and especially about Cheney not having a valid license to hunt quail (or whatever he didn't have a valid license to hunt.) So Cheney had an unfortunate accident. So what? Cheney didn’t run right out to a microphone and announce it. I don’t CARE and I frankly don’t want to keep hearing about it from the media. I want our not-so-free press to focus on the real issues, not the partisan bullshit. And further, the democrats could take a page out of Cheney's book. This guy just doesn't take any crap from the press or anyone else. Should Cheney have notified the public immediately? I don't know but WHO CARES? What are we going to do about North Korea? Are we going to go to war with Iran? Is our deficit going to bury our kids and ruin our nation? THESE are some of the things that I care about.

Along these lines, the democratic national party called today for money. I told the very nice man on the phone that I was not ready to pony-up at this point. While I was not a supporter of the current administration, I hadn't been so pleased with the democrats and how they screwed up the last two elections. The fund-raiser man brought up the impending demise of choice in this country as if that was the pivotal reason I would write a check. I stopped him short. This is another reason why the democrats annoy me lately. Choice is a very important issue, I agree. But it is NOT one of the most pressing issues happening right now. That bus has left the station, people, so quit crying about it. The court is stacked and the fat lady is warming up to sing. So-called moderates who voted for George Bush can thank themselves for that. In a similar vein, I do think that there should be gay marriage. But, I think that it was ill-timed for the left to take that on as an issue prior to the last presidential election. These types of issues, sensationalized in the press and used by politicians to further divide the public, are fairly petty in comparison to what really ails our nation.

What I would like to see the political parties focus on are the REAL issues in our country. Here is my incomplete, not-so-short short-list in no particular order: The consolidation of media ownership and the slow death of the free press, the blurring line between church and state, our dependence on foreign oil, jobs being shipped overseas and the erosion of the US manufacturing base, the ENORMOUS trade deficit, the ENORMOUS budget deficit, the disintegration of our society and the dumbing down of everything from education to popular culture, the impending health care crisis and contributing greatly to this, the unhealthy diet of an obese nation.

Well, that is my rant for tonight. Someone sent me THE ZEN IN WRITING by Ray Bradbury and one of the things he says to do is to just write passionately about something. So, I did.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tuesday Night

We watched "You, Me and Everyone we Know" tonight on DVD. It was a quirky independent film with a light touch. No Hollywood style manipulation of emotions, no special effects. Just a light, loosely connected story with a feel to it rather than a heavy, predictable plot. We really liked it. We watched "Crash" the other night and I felt completely manipulated. The movie did just about all the heavy lifting for the viewer. I thought that the characters were stereotypes and two dimensional. Yes, it did make me think about race...etc. But, I think it was entirely overrated. There. My movie review for the month. Haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet but I am afraid that I am going to think the same of it as Crash. I read a headline the other day: "Churches Boycott Brokeback Mountain". Who CARES? I cannot stomach when organizations boycott entertainment because they don't agree with something, like in this case, homosexuality. It is entertainment. Period. Lighten up, church lady. If you don't want to watch it, just don't. I boycotted The Passion of Christ but you didn't see my publicist trying to get it into the papers, did you?

Today I made Fleur de Sel Caramels. Fleur de Sel is some kind of special salt that is harvested by (probably underpaid) peasants with special rakes every third blue moon on some special beach on some special sea. It costs something like $35 a pound. I did not buy this Fleur de Sel, but was given it as a gift. I have to say that it is a very nice salt and is especially good on steaks because it is nice and flaky. Other than that, I cannot for the life of me see or taste why someone would pay that much for salt, but K Sarah Sarah. Anyway, I made the caramels. They are amazingly soft and rich caramels but you can't taste the bazillion dollar salt at all. I am trying to make a salted caramel which has the salty sweet thing going. I am going to make another batch tomorrow with triple the salt. We will see how that turns out.

Why am I doing this? I have no idea. Just a whim. I am into the baking/cooking thing again lately. Not a good thing for my skin diet, but I am maintaining some discipline so don't worry too much. I am searching for something creative to do at which I know I can succeed. Writing is difficult, baking for the most part, comes out right for me.

If anyone wants to try some caramels, leave a comment and I will send some along. Salty or not salty? Please specify.

Well, off to bed to read. Still on W&P but moving through it at a good clip. It is a great story.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tomorrow


Photo 119
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
This is what I will look like. Tomorrow morning, that is. I don't know what happened to me but a switch went off and I went berserk. I ate three pieces of pizza for dinner and then I proceeded to eat a pretty impressive amount of cake from a mix with ready-made frosting. By my standards, it is definitely in the binge category. No doubt, you are wondering what a cake-mix and ready-made frosting is doing in my kitchen. Kate is using the mix to make little heart shaped cakes for her friends at school and there were two plates of cake scraps and lots of frosting. I figured that since the carbs and other evil things from the pizza were already at work aging my face and swelling up my butt, I might as well go all the way and eat as much sugar as I wanted. It is a well kept secret, I am sure, but I LOVE cakes from mixes and ready made frosting. Now you know.

So here I sit with a headache from all the frosting, ready for my sugar energy crash. The only reason that I don't eat more is that I know how sick I will be in the morning.

Which brings me to my next point, which isn't entirely related, but it is my next point just the same. Women, including myself, spend entirely too much energy and time on how they look. I am not suggesting that women quit that effort/angst entirely. No, I don't think letting oneself go is a good idea at all. (I will list my resons in another blog and believe it or not, one reason not to let oneself go is patriotism.) But, I think that if every woman spent even just 10% of the energy she currently spends on looking younger/stylish/slimmer...etc...and put that energy (or money as the case may be) into a REAL cause, the world would be an entirely different place. Just think about it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Poopy Story (Rated G for Gross)



Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Yesterday I went into the powder room and noticed that the toilet paper was unrolled so that the end of the paper was touching the floor. On the unrolled part, about half way to the floor was a, well, how do I put this? A racing streak? A wipe mark? A poop spot?

It was clear that Jack just unrolled the paper, pulled it toward him, wiped and released it back. No tearing, no throwing away the dirty paper. How fast and convenient. So Jack to do something like that.

After I stopped laughing and made a stern face, I called Jack into the bathroom.

"Did you just go poopy?"
"Yes."
"Did you wipe your bottom?"
"Yes I did."
Pointing to the evidence, "Is this where you wiped?"
"Yes."
"Jack, you are supposed to tear off some toilet paper, wipe your bottom and throw it in the toilet when you are done. You know that."
"But mommy, I was in a hurry. I HAD to do it that way."
"Jack, don't do that again. It is gross."
"I like to do gross things."

( Over Christmas when Kate was home, she found two wadded up, clearly used pieces of toilet paper on Jack's bathroom sink. When asked, Jack said that he had already flushed the toilet and didn't want to waste a flush just for the paper. So he threw it ON THE SINK??)

Kids are so disgusting. At least he has evolved a bit from about six months ago when he used to do the finger test. (I believe I probably blogged about this previously...forgive me if so.) Once when Jack was coming out of the bathroom after taking care of his business, Chris asked him if he had wiped his bottom. (Jack is a lazy kid, what can I say.) Jack replied, "No Daddy. I didn't have to. I put my finger in and it came out regular, so I didn't need to wipe." Nice. This is my well-reared and refined son. Good thing we aren't in Fairfield County anymore...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Lucky Girl


DSCN4754
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
I feel like a Lucky Girl every time I look at this picture of Jack and Kate. This was taken on Kate's birthday when she was opening a card that Chris made for her. He had drawn this funny little body that looked sort of monkey like and pasted a picture of his head for the head and had drawn the monkey/Chris figure holding a bunch of balloons. As you can see, Kate and Jack enjoyed it. Jack made the cake in front of Kate. It was, well, what you would expect from a five year old. Barely edible.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Meg and Abram's birthdays. They have the same birthday, which I think is pretty cool. Abe's angelic parents are taking care of Betsy for the day and night so that Meg and Abe can come to Bloomington and go to the IU Basketball game and have their birthday dinner here and have the whole night to themselves sans child. They are the nicest people in the whole world. Megan married into an incredibly nice and supportive family. I have to make their birthday cake tonight and I can't decide what to make for them. Jack keeps insisting that we make lemon cake from a mix. A mix? In my kitchen? I think not, little boy. (Although, I am a little tired and if time is tight...)

Kate is coming home to "surprise" me tonight but she made the mistake of telling Chris and Jack, who are equally bad at keeping secrets. Both let it slip almost as soon as they had been sworn to secrecy. I have to say, though, that Jack is much better than covering up than Chris. It is a bit disturbing that my five-year old can spin out fairly complicated fabrications to keep a secret. On the other hand, it is a comfort to know that if Chris ever even thought of having an affair, which he wouldn't, I would know immediately.

Basketball game at noon tomorrow. I hope that that Hoosiers don't lose (AGAIN!). Season tickets may be easy to get next year...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Over it & Jack Messes up our Kharma



Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Over It

Well, loyal readers, I have to thank the many who wrote to me with words of encouragement about my mid-life crisis. I am happy to say that it is over. Isn't one day of despair (okay, part of a day) enough to spend fretting over stupid things? I decided today that I should open a bakery to solve my feelings being worth less. I went so far as to call the city zoning and planning and the health department. Fortunately, I got answering machines so that I could quickly come to my senses. The bottom line is that I am over that notion, too. As far as becoming a real writer, I have come up with a strategy. I plan to submit several pieces to about one hundred magazines and then paper one of the walls of my office with the rejection letters. (I stole this idea from my friend Michelle except that she planned to paper her powder room with them.)

And as for getting some sort of job, I am over that, too. If I did that I wouldn't have time to blog, practice piano or do my nightly pore tightening facial masks.

So, as you can see, I am back to my normal self. I got one email that was right on the money... re: Mid Life Crisis..."sounds like a PMS moment to me". How right you are, Ms. Doctor.

Jack Messes up Our Kharma

When I picked up my angelic son today from school, the teacher informed me that he made his friend Jensen cry on the playground by taking Jensen's coat hood tie and flicking the poor kid in the eye with it. Jack probably didn't do it with mean intent but rather was getting carried away physically. He really likes Jensen. So, we discussed it with the teacher, Jack got all ashamed and embarrassed (appropriate) and that was that.

But here is the problem as I see it. Jensen is the great nephew of the Dali Lama. Why can't my kid beat up on some regular kid? MUST he make a kid from THE enlightened family cry???? Could this mess up our kharma? Might we have to come back as worms or cock-roaches in order to work out this playground catastrophe? My mid-life crisis pales in comparison to these life and death questions...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mid-life Crisis Day

Today for some reason (I know the reason, but it isn't even worth going into here) I all of the sudden realized how worth less I feel. Not worthless. Just worth less than I used to be. In the earning potential and professional achievement potential that is. Like my best days in those departments are over. And if that isn't defeatist enough thinking, I have to start picking apart my former career and decide that I never accomplished anything anyway and I that I have never worked up to my potential. And then, of course, I have to remind myself that I have an overblown sense of my potential...etc...etc... You get the picture. So, after I delve into these lovely thoughts for about five premenstral minutes, I am sobbing away like an idiot. Then, I realize that I am going to be late for my piano lesson. I look in the mirror at my red eyes and nose and decide that I can do nothing about the eyes. But, I can put some make up on the nose. I choose this crappy Burt's Bees tinted moisturizer that I bought so that I could avoid paying forty bucks for my favorite Laura Mercier brand that just ran out which I ended up paying forty bucks for anyway because the Bert's Bees is so junky. It goes on sort of like streaky zinc oxide. Not an attractive look. But in my Rudolph moment, I reached for the Burt's because it very light colored and I figured it would act as a concealer for my "very shiny nose". I slopped it on in a hurry and dashed out the door. I looked in the rearview mirror at at stoplight and saw that I had these light, almost white rings around both nostrils where I hadn't rubbed the crappy Burt's Bees junky stuff in. I looked like a coked out middle-aged mom with my swollen red eyes and my still red bozo nose with the white crust. Nice picture. What would Doctor Spoil Sport say?

Now, to be serious, I don't really feel all that awful about myself. It could be a LOT worse, I know. Whether I ever have a career again does not matter at all. I am just trying to decide what it is I want to do besides being a wife and mother. Don't get me wrong, I do love being a wife and mother. But as Jack gets older and I have more time on my hands, I think that I should be doing something else too. I would love to pretend that I will be a real writer and get published and paid for my work but the fact is that there are so many writers out there who are really good. It is like thinking that I can be an actress or something. I also toy with starting a bakery but that doesn't seem realistic at this point. Time will tell and I can wait for it.

Well, it is, THANK GOD, almost bedtime. I am going to finish up this post, wash my face and get into bed and read W&P. May a better day dawn tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Musing on a Viewpoint


Welcome to Indiana
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
I took this picture two years ago on our drive from Connecticut to Bloomington. This place is about 45 minutes north of Bloomington. There must have been a gas station or fast food place right next door because I can't figure out why we would have stopped here otherwise. We don't smoke and we don't pray. I can figure out why I would have taken the picture, though. It was probably in the spirit of "Oh look! Isn't this a riot!" I was enchanted by the proximity of the sale of an addictive substance to a sort of holy-rollerish store-front church. Use your free will to smoke? Get some free will (power) to quit? Lots of possibilities. This was one of many little visual vignettes along the way that made me take pause, made me realize that I was in a different world. Some other signs were the countless billboards for Tom Raper RV sales as we crossed into Indiana, the enormous fireworks store just over the state border, the myriad of discount tobacco stores (do people still smoke that much?), an advertisement for a free chicken with a 100 gallon fill-up and the occasional sign touting the services of a local taxidermy business.

Watching the new landscape with the wide eyes of a visitor to a strange land, I realize now that I still had my "tony suburb lenses" in. Naturally, I evaluated places using Fairfield County, Connecticut as the comparison point. Consequently, most places looked tired, run down, not very affluent...etc. Now, I view places using Bloomington as the basis of comparison. This has happened naturally over time. Bloomington is a more accurate visual picture of middle America...middle geographically to be sure, and certainly middle income - probably slightly on the lower side of the national average. (I have to add that for a town its size (and compared to many much bigger) Bloomington soars far about the national average for culture, amenities and an educated, open-minded population.) Bloomington looked tired to me when I first beheld it, but eventually, it started to look just right. Now, when I visit CT or somewhere economically similar, I am struck by how upscale everything is. It looks exotic to me in the same way that this landscape did when we first moved here. It is interesting how living in a new place can change your perspective over time. Place does matter in how you see the world.

I am getting sort of tired and losing my thread here so I am going to quit the topic for now. I do want to write more though about how much things have changed both externally and internally for me and for us because of our move from the Northeast to the Heartland. There are so many obvious things and many more subtle things that unless I really stop to think about it, I don’t even realize that there has been a change in this opinion or that standard. It’s been two years, now. It’s time for a look back and a look forward I think.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Doing My Part to Fight Large Pores


Mask
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
Yep. Another exciting Friday night in Bloomington. As you can see from the stunning photograph, I am a woman with a sense of humor about her undeniable beauty. In case you are wondering, the green gunk on my face is Burt's Bees Something or Other French Green Clay Mask. I did my whole face last night and tonight I am attacking that pesky T-zone again. I don't know when my nose starting looking like the lunar surface, but I am doing whatever I can to combat it. Worry not.

When I do my whole face with this mask, it tightens up so much that just about all I can move are my lips. I imagine that this is what a new face lift feels like or what lots of Botox feels like. Weird. Count me out of that lunacy.

This mask smells really great to me but Chris says that it smells like bathroom cleaner. I guess tonight won't be a romantic evening...

Earlier, I actually had a martini and I am glad to report that I had no mental trauma and no Dr. Spoil Sport Guilt. It was just perfect. A light spritz of dry vermouth from my always at-the-ready atomizer in the fridge, four or five olives with a bit of juice to make it just a teensy bit dirty (don'tcha just love the way that sounds?) and a healthy splash of high quality vodka (tonight, Ketel One) from the freezer. A pretty martini glass completes the experience. Voila! I hope the mask reverses a few of the ten or so years that the dose of alcohol will put on my face in the morning.

In other news, Jack had a little piano recital today at his monthly group piano lesson. He was poised and played so nicely. I was sort of shocked. When he practices (not very willingly) for me, he plays in this weird passive aggressive half-assed way. I think he does this to piss me off. The teenage years just might be HELL with my little angel.

If you watch the IU/UConn game tomorrow, you should look for us. The game starts at noon. We have courtside seats tomorrow, just to the right of the UConn bench, in the second row. There is a chance that Kate will go in my place if she gets here early enough, but otherwise, I will be there. I plan to rinse the green stuff off of my face first...

Le Corbusier


Love it!
Originally uploaded by Bloomington Girl.
This is the chaise I am going to order this week for our living/family room. At least half, and probably more, of my readership will hate it. Some (Jackie) will appreciate the excellent design and applaud my very very good taste. I don't know if I will order this longue in the canvas/leather as shown or if I will custom order one in a pebbled deep brown leather. I will have to look at the swatches. I am completely excited about this piece of furniture. I know it will look just perfect in the corner of the room that I have in mind.

Remember my Louis Ghost Chair? (The photo is in my very first BloomingtonGirl blog entry.) I took a chance on it and I have to say that it is one of my favorite pieces. I know that this will be in that category.

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